|Issue 17 - December 1973|
|The Stop Powell Campaign|
Stop Powell Campaign, which had the support of students, trade unionists,
organisations and Women’s Liberation groups throughout the North-East,
won a considerable victory in forcing Durham University to withdraw
use of it’s facilities from Powell, and in generating such opposition
that Powell refused to come to any meeting in Durham.
So far as is known, this is the first time that any university in the U.K. has withdrawn facilities from a Member of Parliament. This was not simply a result of fear of a student demo – the authorities probably think they can deal with that. It was when they heard of the trade union support that this demonstration was getting, not only in the North-East but also in Manchester and Sheffield (where trade unionists have a lot of experience of organising against racism and fascism), that this rather weak, effete section of the ruling class caved in in order, as they themselves put it, to “prevent damage to property”.
The victory of the Stop Powell Campaign is a considerable blow to organised fascist groups, like the National Front, to whom Powell’s presence would have given a considerable boost. In the past such groups have always benefited from Powell’s racist outbursts. For example, this is what Robert Taylor, ex-Sheffield organiser of the National Front, said after one of Powell’s speeches: “We held a march in Huddersfield in support of what Powell had said, and we signed eight people up as members of the branch that afternoon. Powell’s speeches gave our membership and morale a tremendous boost. Before Powell spoke we were getting only cranks and perverts. After his speeches we started to attract, in a secret sort of way, the right wing members of the Tory organisations.”
But, although the extreme Right have suffered a set-back, they are laying plans for systematic organisation in the North-East. In a radio interview last week the regional organiser of the national Front said that they were concentrating their resources on the North-East because they believed that the discredited state of the Labour Party in this area would produce precisely the type of political demoralisation that could provide fertile ground for fascist organisations. The organisations which were active in the Stop Powell Campaign have already begun to put their initial victory to political use for the construction of an organisation that can nip this fascist threat in the bud. They held a teach-in on November 24th at which Robin Blackburn, from the International Marxist Group, analysed the significance of Powellism in the increasingly crisis-ridden situation of British capitalism, and it’s role in preparing the way for the growing moves towards a strong right wing State.
A building worker from Edinburgh told the teach-in of militant campaigns against fascism and Orangeism in Scotland. Jack Grassby from South Shields called on the people at the teach-in to start organising a vigilante committee in the N.E. against fascism and racism. The last session of the teach-in took the first steps in setting up just such an organisation. It was agreed to call on all trade unions, socialist and other potentially sympathetic organisations to send representatives to an urgent meeting in the early New Year to establish an organisation which would organise systematic propaganda against fascism and racism and would plan mobilisations against all attempts of the fascists to build their organisation. Of course, the more precise objectives of the organisation would be decided at this meeting. A steering committee was set up to contact all trade unions, etc., about this meeting.
Anyone interested in helping with this please contact Muther Grumble.